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Korea 2

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Korea 2


What distinguishing factors help explain the rapid economic growth experienced by the South Korean economy over the past four decades?

As the South Korean economy has reached a more mature stage of its economic growth, what are the evolving challenges it has had to face?

What are its prospects of continued economic success in the increasingly globalised world economy?

The rapid growth and development in the newly industrialising economies (NIE's) in recent decades has been nothing short of spectacular. Now among the world's most dynamic industrialised economies, the NIE's of Singapore, Taiwan Hong Kong, and South Korea which will be the focus, stand as perhaps the best examples of successful economic development. The economic development of South Korea, which has been among the most rapid in the world is typical of the 'miracle' that is the NIEs.

Korea has come far since the days it was 'a nation of hungry rice farmers', by pursuing an industrialisation-led development commitment since 1961, which has since produced annual GDP growth of 8.4% per annum, second only to China. The success of South Korea, has been identified by a number of factors including the shift away from import substitution strategies towards export orientated industrialisation, and the effective managing of the economy and authoritarian rule adopted by the government in order to accelerate the pace of capital accumulation, technical progress and structural change to produce economic growth beyond what could possibly occur in a free market economy.

NIEs, South Korea, are now recognised as 'export machines' boasting some of the highest trade/GDP ratios in the world. International economic relations began in 1964 with the recognition of these limitation of the domestic market and the ineffectiveness of pursuing substitution industrialisation strategies. As part of its new strategy for export expansion the South Korean government introduced new measures which included the devaluation of the won, which improved the competitiveness of its exports and introduced incentives designed to channel resources into export-orientated industries. Exporters were also supported by direct cash payments, permission to retain foreign exchange earnings for the purchase of imports, and the exemption from virtually all import controls and tariffs. The government in consultation with firms, set up export targets for industries as well as individual firms. These targets appeared to have influenced firm behaviour and supporting this claim was from between 1961 and 1973 the volume of exports increased at an annual rate of 35% and today continues to consistently rank in the top twenty trading nations.

Over the last 30 years the share of manufactures in total exports has increased from 12% to 95%. Furthermore the manufactures exported have themselves changed with more advanced products, led by electronics dominating the list of major exports and hence the importance of the Samsung and Lucky Goldstar to the Korean economy. The direction of trade has also changed somewhat, where South Korean exports went largely to the USA and imports came from Japan, Asian countries excluding Japan are now South Korea's major trading partners. The importance of China is also becoming of increasing significance.

South Korea's economic success as noted can also be contributed to the high levels of savings and investment. South Korean's save about 35% of GNP and thus sustainable economic growth has been driven by capital stock accumulation and expanded productive capacity. Indeed some figures show up to 60% of economic expansion in South Korea is a result of capital accumulation and increase infrastructure.

Undoubtedly one of the most important rationalisations for economic success is effective government intervention. Selective government intervention has promoted the development of new industries, many of which have become internationally competitive and also supported and advanced the growth of the private sector. The main aim of the government in South Korea has been to ensure that the behaviour of individual business accorded with the long term interest of the business class as a whole, and while applying authoritarian rule recognising when it was time to allow the market to operate on its own. Apart from the macroeconomic management, government in the NIEs have also sought to accelerate the pace of capital accumulation, technical progress and structural change beyond what would have resulted from 'laissez-faire.'

All NIEs pursued trade policies, supporting industrial deepening and the development of national firms with selective incentives to promote exports. In South Korea for example, the government gave Chaebols preferential access to bank loans, relying on them to develop heavy and chemical industries capable of competing internationally. Indeed four decades of industrial development in

South Korea have been marked by what have been marked as 'incestuous ties' between big business and government. In recent times government has been hostile to the conglomerates but the appointment of Mr Kim Suk Won to the ruling party has reopened an old wound over the role of big business and politics in South Korea.

The role of the Chaebols in the Korean economy was a substantial reason for Korea's success over the last 40 years. The Chaebols are the large multi-company family owned business entities which are both horizontally and vertically integrated. Examples include Samsung, Hyundai, Lucky Goldstar and Daewoo, which together account for over half the total output. The Chaebols have played a major role in the economic development of Korea. They were given preferential access to bank loans and were relied upon to develop the HCIs (as they had the resources and ability to compete in foreign markets). Indeed, the period of the HCIs drive marked the most rapid expansion of the Chaebols.

The Chaebols engaged in fierce and even ruthless competition with one another on the many fronts of industry, with at least 4 or 5 competitors in each industry, which all contributed to the economic expansion of the economy.

The government in South Korea, as well as other NIEs has supported a technology policy. By providing a favourable tax environment, government has indirectly encouraged business research and development expenditure. The Korean government for example grants a tax credit equal to 10% of capital expenditures. Current policies are aimed at achieving a 5% share of research and development expenditure in total GNP by 2001. The government has also aided fundamental technological development in advanced materials, advanced vehicle technology, bio materials and nuclear reactors.

The role of the government in South Korea was also to provide these financial incentives to promote the development of particular industries. Interest Rates for example ...

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